Derby County recorded their biggest win of the season as a 4-0 triumph over Birmingham City at St Andrew’s saw them climb out of the bottom three for the first time since the end of October.
Three goals in 10 first-half minutes did the damage for Wayne Rooney’s side as they responded strongly to their stoppage-time defeat by Preston on Boxing Day, which had ended a previous six-game unbeaten run.
Birmingham are now four points above Derby and looking over their shoulders, without a win in their last five games. The home goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was the villain in the 15th minute as he gifted the visitors the lead, dropping a corner under no pressure and allowing Krystian Bielik to hook the ball into the net for his first Derby goal.
They doubled their lead two minutes later, the referee pointing to the spot after Harlee Dean challenged Louie Sibley. Graeme Shinnie blasted the penalty past Etheridge.
Rooney’s rampant side then took advantage of some dreadful defending from a corner. Matthew Clarke flicked the ball on at the near post and Colin Kazim-Richards slid in unchallenged at the back post. Jason Knight wrapped up an emphatic win in the 77th minute.
Norwich, the leaders, dropped points for the second time in four days after being held to a 1-1 draw by struggling QPR at Carrow Road. After losing 1-0 at Watford, the Canaries slipped up again as the visitors recorded a hard-earned point in a game of two penalties.
A dominant home side looked as though they had won it when Teemu Pukki scored his 11th goal of the season from the spot with 15 minutes remaining but they were pegged back nine minutes later as Bright Osayi-Samuel followed suit.
Sheffield Wednesday’s caretaker manager, Neil Thompson, praised his team after they beat Middlesbrough 2-1 less than 24 hours after Tony Pulis was sacked and thanks to first-half goals from Callum Paterson and Liam Shaw.
Thompson had little time to prepare for his new role but was delighted with the response of Wednesday’s players. He said: “I spoke to the chairman last night and he told me to prepare the team for today. Football never surprises me and you always have to be ready for anything.
“To come away against a good team with a result is really encouraging. We just wanted to be positive and the lads did as we asked. I’ve had a really good reaction from the team and I’m delighted. The fighting spirit has never been the question. They’re a good group who work their socks off.”
Wycombe picked up a valuable three points in their fight against relegation as headers from Ryan Tafazolli and David Wheeler gave them a 2-1 win over Cardiff. Tafazolli powered in from a corner after half an hour before Wheeler wrapped up the points in the second half, rounding off a sweeping move from close range.
Cardiff created very little, falling to a third straight defeat for the first time under Neil Harris, who was sent to the stands late on, although they did pull a goal back in stoppage time through Junior Hoilett’s header. It was a vital result for Wycombe, who came into the game without a win in 11 and looked the better side throughout.
Daniel Johnson and Sean Maguire were on target as Preston claimed a 2-0 victory to extend their winning league run to three matches when they faced Coventry on a night when the temperatures dipped below freezing at Deepdale.
The on-loan Leicester midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall scored his first goal for Luton as the Hatters ended a run of three games without a win by defeating Bristol City 2-1 at Kenilworth Road.
Glen Rea fired them in front after 17 minutes but Sonny Bradley’s own goal just after the hour restored parity. Luton took only seven minutes to find the winning goal, however, with Dewsbury-Hall netting a fine shot to clinch the three points.
Huddersfield made it five home wins in a row as Naby Sarr inspired a dramatic 2-1 victory over Blackburn. Rovers thought they had salvaged a point when Sam Gallagher pounced with four minutes left to cancel out Sarr’s headed opener but the French defender had the final say as the game entered injury time as he ghosted on to Pipa’s floated pass to grab a stunning winner.
Barnsley condemned Rotherham to their fifth defeat in six matches. Cauley Woodrow put the visitors up inside eight minutes before Alex Mowatt doubled their advantage. Michael Smith pulled one back but Barnsley held on to win 2-1.
James Chester scored a second-half own goal for Stoke to cancel out team-mate Jordan Thompson’s strike in a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest.